40 years later

As a grown woman living in post-Pinochet Chile, I feel a ceaseless murmur of the years of dictatorship hanging over the people of this country. While the recent trials and indictments of regime authority figures have brought an air of justice into the lasting feelings of a lack of closure, my generation and my parents generation can still see the loss between the lines of everyday life.

Having only been 13 on September 11, 1973, I had little time to experience my teenage years as the young person I was. My ignorance of the impact of the current events of the time could only sustain my adolescent capacities for so long. Now watching my own daughter pass through the same stages of life I was in during the years under Pinochet, I realize that the feelings tied to this time of life were stolen from me. When I was Rosa’s age (19), I didn’t know where my father was or even if he was alive. I lived in fear of what could happen to the rest of my family, while simultaneously having to make up for the mental health of my depressed mother to try and create a semblance of normalcy for my younger brother. Rosa is in high school, doing well just as I had hoped, worrying about boys and social events. Her father and I (while yes we were in a college relationship) were constantly protesting and supporting our friends, having little time to devote our thinking to less political subjects. I want her to know this. I want her to know that Pablo and I were passionate and worked hard for a democratic society. She does, of course she does, but it can also be so hard to communicate the tragedy that still affects me daily.

My father could have been taken from me forever. It’s incredible that he was returned to us and I am regretful of the pain I must have caused him with my inability to immediately reconnect with him when he came back. Those years without him are the darkest, most lonesome years of my life and make me realize the strength in my father and mother that allowed them to survive. However hard it has been, I’m grateful that my father is able to appear in court to help indict his torturers, because there are so many whose voices will never be heard.

Reflecting on the course of my life, it’s hard to believe I’ve come into such a normal life. I’m a wife, a mother, a teacher, a survivor. Sometimes I freeze up at meetings with other parents from Rosa’s high school and think, they could have been one of them. I’ve come to terms that sometimes it will just bubble up and I’ll have to drive for an hour and reorient my thoughts. But for what these 40 years have been, I’m doing okay.

1 thought on “40 years later

  1. ssvolk says:

    Thank you, Alita, for sharing your life with me through these pages of your journal. I think that for you, as well as for all of us who lived through years that were both painful and full of hope at the same time, we never quite know when the past will find a little crack through which to sprout and confront us with its presence. We’ll probably never know.

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